Tuesday, August 30, 2011

For future reference...

Smashwords.com does not allow one to publish works serially. It's a policy.


So, you cannot download the Liz chapters individually off of Smashwords.com. Sorry. At the moment, you can do so on Amazon.com.

I suppose I should check to see if Amazon has a similar policy. That would be the responsible thing to do. I'll let you know when I figure that part out.

I plan to make this blog available for subscription on Kindle, too. That might be a good option for some of you.


Liz Stratton Closes the Store: Chapter Two

PRUDE ALERT: This book contains ADULT CONTENT. Enjoy!
This is the second chapter of Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store.
Did you miss a chapter? Click here for the previous chapter.
Click here for Chapter One.
Want to get this chapter for your e-reader? Go to Amazon.com.
Can’t wait to see what happens? Download the entire book at Smashwords.com or Amazon.com!
Liz Stratton Closes the Store:
Chapter Two
Maren Bradley Anderson


Maureen Bach squealed and jumped and down like a cheerleader, which, in fact, she had been in high school. Liz had to grin at her friend’s enthusiasm. Maureen may have started out as a lowly intern at Liz’s show, but her “spunk” gave her a rocket-ride to Liz’s inner circle. There was no one who else who could entertain quite like Maureen and her tales of growing up young, ginger-haired and pert in the Valley. Plus, she was always ready with a dirty limerick to liven the day. One of her classics was:
There once was a girl from the Valley
Who went to a political rally.
She blew the committee
That ran the whole city,
And now she’s called Mayor O’Malley.
Right now she was saying “omigodomigodomigod” while bouncing bra-less in her tiny tee shirt. Zeke could barely contain himself, though Liz did admire his efforts.
When Maureen was done expressing her excitement, Liz said, “So, I take it you’re willing to take the position?”
“Oh, YES, of course! Oh, you’ll be so proud of me, Liz. Spare Me! will be in very capable hands.” Maureen was nodding seriously as she returned to her seat. Liz loved that Maureen could turn herself on and off like that. It made her very hard to pin down sometimes, but Liz was jealous of the ability to switch roles so effortlessly.
Liz continued with the briefing. “You’ve handled the show very well when I’ve been on vacation, so I know you’ll do well,” she said. “But that was with Zeke at the helm. I’m a little worried about leaving you with a new producer, though.”
“Oh, where’s Zeke going?” Maureen asked.
“I’m going with Liz as her, what do you call it?” Zeke said.
“You’re my handler,” Liz answered.
“M-row!” said Maureen with a saucy grin on her face. “I bet it didn’t take long for you to convince him to ‘handle’ you!”
Liz laughed and missed the micro-second that Zeke looked undone by Maureen’s remark. “No, he was eager for the job, all right. But I love Zeke. I couldn’t do any of this without him,” Liz smiled at Zeke like he was a trusted retriever, and that’s exactly how he felt. None of this had missed Maureen.
But she changed the subject.
“So, how can I help with the campaign?”
Liz sat backstage and re-read the same sentence of her acceptance speech over and over. Why was she nervous? Hadn’t she been in front of a live studio audience taping a national show every day for ten years? Why did a room full of supporters and some press give her butterflies all of a sudden?
She couldn’t talk herself down because she knew that her talk show was just a forum for the conceited and was watched by people who didn’t work during the day and had no better use for their time. This was real. She might be a “name,” as Cal put it, but she wasn’t a politician. Liz began to pant and her contact lenses felt like they were burning. She yelped as she pulled them out, so Cal ran in.
“What the hell, Liz?” she cried when she saw Liz leaning over the make-up table with tears streaming down her face. “Oh, honey! What’s the matter?”
“My contacts went toxic in my eyes,” Liz sniffled, hoping to cover her panic. “I need to find my glasses. I can’t wear those anymore today.”
Liz pulled out her glasses and slipped them on. She sighed in relief when she realized that they masked her fear just a little, too. Cal looked at Liz in the mirror for a moment.
“Actually, Liz, that’s good,” she said. “They give you that ‘sexy librarian’ look. That’ll go over well with the men and the lesbians in the press room.” She gave Liz a sly wink. “We will need to work the whole ‘she’s single, everyone’ angle, don’t you think?”
Liz couldn’t help but grin. “A woman for all the people, huh? I’m not sure that’s going to fly in Omaha, Cal.”
“Oh, fuck Omaha,” said Cal. “Like we’d win Omaha, anyway. Now bring your sexy self along. We have a room to rile up.”
Liz took one last look at herself in the mirror. She did look like a sexy librarian, so she pouted and put her fingers in front of her lips in a silent “shush!” Madame President needs quiet, she thought, and minced out of the dressing room.
“...and that is why I, Elizabeth Ann Stratton am running for the office of the President of the United States of America!” Liz finished her speech with as much enthusiasm as she could muster, and the crowd began its applause. At the last moment she added, “because I mean, really, Spare Me!
The crowd leapt to its feet and howled a high, throaty, decidedly female howl as Liz stepped back and waved a moment before Cal came on stage and hugged her. Cal took the podium and shouted over the melee, “How about a hand for the future Madame President?” The room erupted again and chanted, “Spare Me! Spare Me!” as they waved and left the stage.
Cal grinned. “I think that went well,” she said. “I mean, I was a little worried when they began chanting your name, but I think you really got them when they began chanting your name, you know?” She nudged Liz in the ribs.
Liz was high on endorphins, so she giggled like a seven-year-old, but her inner critic was already in high gear.
“You don’t think the speech was a little stilted or...trite?” Liz asked quietly.
Cal looked at her as if making a decision. “Well,” she began. “We can work on your delivery. You’re best when you’re improvising, you know. Like throwing in “Spare Me!” Brilliant. We’re going to have to work that in every time you talk.”
“Won’t that get repetitive or boring?”
“That’s politics, honey,” Zeke said stepping up from behind them. “Let’s get to the green room for some champagne,” he suggested. He took a deep breath and put his fingertips on the small of Liz’s back. He exhaled when she didn’t pull away.
Liz noticed Zeke could open a bottle of bubbly better than anyone. Barely a burp so the bubbles stayed in the wine. He poured three glasses and then raised his in a toast. “To our girl!” They clinked and drank, and then Zeke said what he always said: “In celebration of a successful show, please come to dinner with me tonight!”
To which Liz responded the same way she always did: she laughed lightly and said, “Some other time, I promise!” and sipped some more champagne. This had been their ritual for the past ten years.
Zeke watched as the two women chattered in agonizing ignorance of their affect on him. He held the wine under his nose and peeked at them over his dark-rimmed glasses. After ten years, he was used to the way he felt about Liz and the way she felt about him. He hadn’t meant to be categorized as brotherly, just the opposite, in fact. When he heard her radio show all those years ago and then seen her headshot, he had recognized her potential, but mostly he had wanted to get into her pants.
The “Assistant Producer” line had worked for him before. Zeke was handsome, but he was not tall, and he was not remarkable-looking, and recently he’d begun shaving his head to hide unfortunately early balding. In LA, you had to be remarkable-looking and have great contacts to make girls pay attention to you. Or, you had to be somebody who could help a career.
At least Zeke was an actual assistant producer when he met Liz. He’d found that he liked the work, and the line was useful for picking up girls in bars. But, it hadn’t worked on Liz. Maybe it was because she wasn’t in or from LA, but she hadn’t reacted in the way the bimbos on the strip did. She didn’t scoot her chair closer to his or start making eyes at him over her drink. She just began talking about her ideas for a television show. Her excellent ideas for a show. Zeke was smitten with her, and the casting couch remained unused.
Zeke snapped out of his head when he heard his name.
“Zeke. When is the first debate?” Cal was asking.
“Debate? Well, we won’t be actually debating the other candidates until after their conventions in August,” he said. “Until then, we’ll be just setting up press conferences, buying ads, and campaigning. You know, spreading the message.”
“Fine,” said Liz, stretching her long, long, ever so long legs out so they almost touched Zeke’s polished shoes. “What’s our ‘message’?” she asked.
Cal pulled a legal pad out of her case. “Besides our usual ‘break the glass ceiling,’ and ‘keep your legislation out of our uteri’ platforms, WAP is calling for the end of the war in Mesopotamiastan. ‘War is a stupid man’s game,’” she read from the pad. “Present company excepted.” Zeke waved a hand. “We need to brainstorm some ideas on how to end that fucking mess.”
Liz sighed angrily. “I’ve been talking about that stupid war on the show for six years now,” she said. “And I get angrier every time I do. The amount of money spent! The continuous tours of duty for the soldiers! Do you know, I interviewed a girl last year who had only seen her husband for a month before he was shipped back to Mesopotamiastan for another two year stint!” Liz’s blue eyes flashed. Zeke thought “angry Liz” was the sexiest beast there was.
Cal was nodding. “WAP has statistics on how many families have lost primary breadwinners to the war, how many have lost sons or husbands.”
“Do you have numbers on how much these missing men are straining the economy?”
Cal flipped through a stack of printouts on her lap as she took a sip of champagne. Smiling she said, “Yup,” and held up a sheet with a downward-sloping graph. “Right here.”
Liz leaned further back in the soft chair and sipped her bubbly, too. “Does it seem to you, Cal, that the war has robbed us of all the men?”
Cal glanced at Zeke and said, “Sometimes. Zeke, how did you escape the army?”
Liz looked up to see if Zeke had taken offence that she had forgotten that he was in the room, again. He hadn’t. “I have flat feet,” he said. “You should see my footprint. It’s like an outline of a shoe.” Liz smiled at him, and that was enough for him, for now.
Liz Stratton was not a rock star, but now that she was on a bus tour, she felt a little more empathy for them. Granted, her tour only needed two busses, and required no semi-trucks full of guitars and such, but after only two hours on a luxury coach, Liz felt a bit stir-crazy.
Her bus was even a deluxe special model with a private bedroom for her in the back. The driver made sure to show her the door that closed for “privacy.” He was immensely proud of his coach. Liz could hardly turn around in the “bedroom,” and the bunk was a cramped fit for her six-foot frame, but she made a big deal out of it for him. She knew better than to upset a bus driver.
Once she was settled, the support staff mounted the steps and occupied most of the seats of the bus, including the two “booths” with little tables; the driver also showed these off to Liz on her tour. Soon, all the staff were busy tapping away on either their laptops or smart phones, completely absorbed in their electronics. Liz wasn’t expecting the staff to be so...technologically savvy.
“Gosh, they’re quiet,” she whispered to Zeke.
He looked up from his yellow notepad. “Hmph,” he snorted. “If I ever get a Twitter account, make sure I’m shot the next morning.”
“Is that what they’re doing?” Liz asked. “I mean, I have email, and the show has a Facebook page that I sometimes post on, but, I mean....” She trailed off sadly. “Am I actually so old that I can’t understand the new generation’s mode of communication?”
“Oh, my poor girl,” Zeke smiled at her. “You are worse than that. You are so old that once you get a Twitter account (and that’s part of our plan), you will make it passĂ©.”
“You really know how to hurt a girl,” Liz said.
Liz’s contact lenses were officially out of commission. Even if the smog died down and she were able to wear them again, her “handlers” had decided that glasses would become her Presidential “signature.” Now she had three dozen pairs and one person in charge of picking which she was to wear when.
“Where does WAP get the money to do this, again?” Liz asked Cal as the “eyewear technician” considered the options for today’s open-air rally.
“We’ve got an endowment that the Ivies envy,” Cal whispered. “One of the Rockefeller widows left everything to us instead of her simpering children.”
Liz nodded and peeked at her notes again. She felt like she was getting the typical rally and press conference routine down. She hadn’t really focused on how much repeating politicians running for office do, but she had said mostly the same thing every day. It was Saturday, the beginning of a new week in a way, and she was studying her new script.
“Where are we today, Zeke?” Liz asked, glancing out the bus window. The parking lots all looked the same.
Zeke knew, but he glanced at the calendar, anyway. “We’re just North of San Diego.”
Instead of being pleased with the news, Zeke saw Liz frowning. “Frowning Liz” was another sexy beast he loved. “But where, Zeke?”
He glanced at the calendar again and saw what was irking her. “Oh, we’re near Camp Pendleton.”
“Shit,” Liz hissed between her teeth.
“What is it?” asked Cal.
“Military wives.”
“Liz, focus on the script. We’ve outlined a few things...” Cal began.
“This is bullshit, Cal, and we know it. I don’t want to go out there and look at those faces without a PLAN.” Liz paced up the aisle of the bus. “Can we postpone this rally?”
“No. You’ll just have to do the best you can, Liz. Remember, we’re the only ones who are indignant and angry about the war. It’s enough for now just to say it has to stop.”
“Maybe for you,” said Liz, flopping back in her seat. “I want to be able to tell them that we know how to end it.”
“Well,” said Zeke. “When you have an idea, let us know.”
Liz walked onto the stage inside an old gym complete with basketball hoops suspended from the ceiling. The crowd that had gathered to see her hardly filled one corner of the room, but they seemed enthusiastic. The local media had set up across from the stage so three cameras and bored reporters faced her. The cameras didn't bother her nearly as much as the faces of the young, mostly female faces that stared up at her. Alarmingly, there were several “Support Our Troops!” tee shirts polka-dotting the audience.
"We entered this war for the wrong reasons!" Liz declared, and waited for the high-pitched whoops to die down before saying, "We continue for the wrong reasons!" The crowd cheered again and seemed perfectly happy to respond to her cheerily, regardless of the hot, stagnant air in the gym and sticky, stale mat smell. Liz felt like a parrot, mouthing words that had no meaning and blinking blankly at the faces before her. She felt sick.
Her speech done, Liz shook hands and kissed babies. This was the last stop today, so she could afford to linger a little. As she hugged a particularly chubby infant for a picture, someone tugged on her sleeve. She turned to face the oldest woman in the room. "Yes?" Liz asked. "What can I do for you?"
"You can tell me how you propose to stop this stupid war," the crone rasped at her. Her faded sweater had a yellow ribbon pinned to the lapel. "I've been voting for a half century, and I'm ready to stop because not one politician has done what he's said he was going to do. Most've just stopped saying what they’re going to do, so I've taken to asking. What are you going to do to get us out of this war?"
Liz stared at the old woman for a moment, stunned and angry that she didn't have a ready answer. Finally, she sighed and put her arm around the elderly lady. "Honestly, I'm still working on a plan," she said, suddenly feeling very tired. "I will tell you that I would give up anything to get us out of this war."
"So would I," said the old lady.
"Me, too," said another woman.
A number of other women also agreed.
"That's great," said Liz. “Now, we need to figure out what we could sacrifice to make the war end."
The ladies surrounding her laughed.
Liz said, "If any of you come up with a plan, please send it to us. We're ready to listen to ideas."
Zeke nudged her and handed her a pen and paper with a wink.
“Actually,” she said, “how about we just start with brainstorming session now?”
“Beer!” Came the first suggestion, followed by snickers.
Liz wrote it down carefully. “Beee-eer. Next?”
“Oil changes!”
“I think we’re missing the spirit of the exercise, here,” Liz said, but wrote the items down, anyway.
“NOW we’re getting somewhere!” Liz laughed.
“New shoes!”
“Ice cream!”
“Let’s not get crazy,” Liz joked.
On the sidelines, Cal congratulated Zeke. “Great idea, man. Those ladies are eating up the brainstorming thing! Where’d that come from?”
Zeke shrugged. “It’s the way we write the show, Cal. Someone writes down every crazy idea that pops into our heads because one of them’s gotta be a winner.”
“You always get winners?”
“Not every time, but it only takes a couple of winners to make the difference.”
“I’m glad you came along, Zeke,” Cal said, bumping him affectionately.
“Me, too.”
They smiled as they watched Liz work the crowd.
Maureen Bach wasn’t Liz Stratton, but she was entertaining in a different way. Cute and bouncy and normally bra-less, Maureen filled up the small screen like an off-duty stripper in a smoky bar. Liz watched Maureen’s first segment in awe and disbelief. It was titled, “I Don’t Get Any Since The Army Took My Lover Away.” Maureen had eight women come on stage and tell her in great, graphic detail how they hadn’t seen an actual penis in months and were resorting to a number of “Plan B’s.”
“Zeke,” Liz called. “Zeke, what is this?”
Zeke peered over Liz’s shoulder at the little flat-screen mounted on the wall of the bus. “That’s Maureen doing your show,” he said.
“But, Zeke. She’s said, ‘cock’ and ‘dildo’ at least three times already!”
“Really?” Zeke sat down. “I’m surprised Andre let her to do that. He’s a bit of a prude.”
The watched as Maureen interviewed another woman who was describing in thinly veiled detail how to make a “pleasure device” from frozen vegetation.
“I don’t believe this!” Liz cried. “This is on during the daytime, Zeke!”
“Calm down, Liz,” Zeke said soothingly. “I think this might be very helpful.” He started scribbling on a nearby yellow pad. “I mean, if you mention an interview with a woman who was resorting to her vegetable bin for lack of a lover, I think you might get some attention...”
“But what would I lose?” Liz wailed. She watched as Maureen turned to the camera and said, “We’ll be right back,” somehow bouncing her pert breasts at the camera without moving a muscle.
Zeke put a hand on her shoulder, and caught a peek down her blouse. “Honey, I think this will be good for us. That’s why I approved the segment. You know we’re using the show as a platform, right? We need it to stir up the issues we want to talk about.”
“I know,” said Liz. “I just see my journalistic ideals flying out the window.”
“This isn’t journalism, it’s politics,” said Cal from her seat. “We’re not aiming for the highest common denominator. You know that.”
The memory of Maureen’s nipples made Liz turn off the television. “Just make her wear a bra, okay? I’m depressed enough about not being 25 anymore. I don’t need her rubbing it in.”
This is the second chapter of Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store.
Did you miss a chapter? Click here for the previous chapter.
Click here for Chapter One.
Go to Maren’s author page at Smashwords.com to download my other stories to your e-reader.
Can’t wait to see what happens? Download the entire book at Smashwords.com!
About the Author
Maren Bradley Anderson is a writer, teacher, podcaster, blogger, and alpaca rancher who lives in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. She has written short stories and plays for years, and has recently taken to writing screenplays and novels. She teaches live and online classes on literature and writing at Western Oregon University. She has Master’s Degrees in both Literature and Teaching Writing from Humboldt State University and a B.A. in English and Studio Art from Mount Holyoke College. Maren hosts a podcast about alpacas (Paca Talk) with her husband, and blogs about alpacas and writing. Her alpacas win ribbons for conformation and fleece, plus she thinks they are darned cute.
Connect with me online!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Another thank-you

Last week, I wrote about why I am self-publishing my writing and listed a few sources of inspiration.

Weirdly, I forgot to mention the conversation I had that actually inspired me to take this leap; that conversation was with Scott William Carter.

Scott and I work at the same college--he performs daily miracles with educational technology, and I teach writing and literature to freshmen, mostly online. Eventually, I realized he was a writer an took him out to lunch to pick his brain. He gave me great advice, including attenting Dean Wesley Smith's class on the Oregon coast.

Earlier this summer, I went to a BBQ at Scott's place. He, my computer-programmer husband and I had a conversation about online/self-publishing. Scott and Dean Wesley Smith are going to teach a class on how to publish stuff online in October 2011.

As I listened to Scott describe the class, I kept thinking, "I can do that. I can do that. I can even do that!" This culminated in the realization: "Wait--I can DO that!"

So, I need to send a great bit, belated "Thank you!" to Scott William Carter making me realize that, yes, I can do this.

I promise I won't even blame him if I end up going down in spectacular flames.

Perhaps he'll bring the marshmallows to the roast.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store: Chapter One


I'm launching this chapter a little ahead of schedule. Enjoy!


PRUDE ALERT: This book contains ADULT CONTENT. Enjoy!

This is the first chapter of Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store.
Want to get this chapter for your e-reader? Go to Smashwords.com or Amazon.com.
Get this chapter for FREE at Smashwords.com by using the following coupon code at checkout:
Coupon Code: LW82J
Expires: September 24, 2012

Can’t wait to see what happens? Download the entire book at Smashwords.com or Amazon.com!

Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store
Maren Bradley Anderson


Liz Stratton made it a policy not to have bad days, but at 9:15 a.m., this one was already testing her optimism. An overnight blackout had jinxed every electrical device in her house including her alarm, which unhelpfully blinked “12:00” at her when she eventually opened her eyes. She stumbled to her car to find that despicable yellow light glaring at her, daring her to attempt the highway with an empty tank. Once she was at the studio, her new hairdresser had to rush because Liz was so late and tugged on her tender scalp in new and excruciating ways.
And now, a timid little assistant was informing her that her show guest had canceled. The star’s son had broken his arm and was at the hospital. Liz had to admit that this was a better excuse than she usually got for a last-minute cancellation. But now she had to find a new guest for her show, Spare Me!, who would be interesting and would show up in on time—a tall order in Hollywood.
She glanced her reflection as the girl tugged...yanked... at the back of her head. Liz scrutinized her long, coffee-colored hair for stray grays, but didn’t see any. Her tall frame was a tad too long for the chair, but at nearly six feet tall, Liz was used to not quite fitting in the world. She sighed and peered over her glasses at her makeup and decided that she was presentable to a television audience.
Liz’s cell phone rang. It was her producer, so she answered it with, “Zeke, please tell me something good.”
“You’re as beautiful as ever,” he answered, and she had to grin. “Are you smiling? Good. We’ve lined Cal up for your interview today. How’s that for last-minute tricks?”
“Zeke, you’re a peach,” she replied. “Have her come by my dressing room as soon as she’s here.”
“She wants to, anyway,” Zeke said. “She says she’s got some great ideas for ‘The Future.’” He said this last part in a spooky voice that made Liz laugh.
“That’s Cal,” she said and hung up.
“Good news?” asked the hairdresser as she shoved a pin deep into Liz’s sensitive scalp.
“Yes. My friend Calliope Talmadge is going to be on the show today.”
“You know Calliope Talmadge?” gasped the girl, dropping her comb.
Liz took a closer look at her. “What’s your name?”
“Amber Hastings,” said the girl. Her hair was chopped in a short bob, and she wore trendy clothing in all-organic cotton. “Calliope Talmadge is a hero of mine,” she admitted. “I’ve been a member of WAP since I turned eighteen.”
Liz assumed that was last year, but didn’t say anything. “I’ll make sure you’re introduced, Amber,” Liz said instead, and then tolerated the girl’s squealing excitement. “Now, don’t pull my hair so hard. I’m not a lawnmower, you know.”
Spare Me! was the highest-rated afternoon talk show on the West coast and second only after Oprah east of the Rockies. It was named after Liz’s catch-phrase. During a radio interview with a state senator in Arizona, she said “Spare Me!” so much that everyone at the station called her “Spare Me Stratton” from then on. She re-named her radio show The Spare Me Hour with Liz Stratton, and shortened it simply Spare Me! when television finally called.
Ten years ago Zeke Rowan heard her as he drove through the Southwest on an assignment for a news show he was assistant producing, and “fell in love.” That’s what he said when he called the station and demanded a lunch with her that day.
The short, handsome, soon-to-be producer insisted that he could get her a daytime talk show in LA if only she’d give him her phone number and a handful of head shots. She had done so, though, knowing what she knew now about LA, she’d never be so trusting again. She had been lucky that Zeke had been the real deal.
At first, Liz had no aspirations for television because she didn’t consider herself beautiful enough for the small screen. Who would want to watch an Amazon interview anyone? Liz had played basketball in high school, and had gone to prom with a boy of equal athletic prowess and low social standing. They were the knees-and-elbows couple. She couldn’t imagine being graceful in front of a television camera.
Zeke was persistent, though, and convinced her to fly out to L.A. for a screen test—a fake interview with an actor. After an hour in the hands of a talented makeup and hair stylist, even Liz had to admit she looked good. The camera loved her expressive face and caught the loveliness of her blue eyes against her dark hair. Once she relaxed into her typical interview mode, her forceful and lively personality even made the cameraman smile. She was a natural.
Of course, television is different than radio. A million decisions had to be made about the set, the format, and Liz’s wardrobe. She didn’t know how she would have survived if Zeke hadn’t been there every step of the way, helpful and attentive.
One of her first shows aired right after Congress reinstated the Draft. She invited the local Congressman and any representative of the Army who would come. When she walked onto stage that afternoon, the two men sat confidently on her sofas. She began by questioning them carefully about the justification for the Draft.
“Well, you see, it’s like this,” said Congressman Miller. “If we have any hope of winning this war, we need to attack both fronts with as much force as we can muster.”
“Right,” said Lt. Archer. “So the Army asked the government to re-institute the Draft so that we could send the Reserve and National Guard troops home and have fresh recruits for the field.”
“So, you’re telling me that in order to send the Army Reserve and National Guard home, you began the Draft, so that you could just conscript them again for as long as you like?” Liz asked. She tried to keep a mocking tone out of her voice, but she wasn’t sure it worked.
Lt. Archer looked a little stricken, so Congressman Miller jumped in. “Now, Liz...”
“Ms. Stratton,” she said shortly.
“Uh, right, Ms. Stratton, this is a necessary step in our quest to win this war.”
“And why do we need to do that?” Liz asked, as innocently as she could.
“What do you mean?” The Congressman.
“I mean what I said. Why do we need to ‘win’ this war? What has being in this war gotten us so far? What does it promise to give us if we ‘stay the course’? I’ve always wondered this, and now it seems really important to know.”
“Well,” said the Lieutenant. “I mean, think of the consequences of not winning.”
“You mean ‘losing’?” Liz spat at him. “What are the consequences of losing, Lieutenant? Giving up ground on a rock I’ll never see? Paying more for gas? I’m already doing that. Being threatened by terrorists? I’m still being threatened by them. Losing Mesopotamianstan democracy? So what? We’re not missionaries, or at least, we shouldn’t be. I don’t feel any safer than I did ten years ago when this thing started, do any of you?” she asked the audience.
A great “no!” was the reply.
“Gentlemen? Response?” Liz asked.
The Lieutenant stared at her like the proverbial deer in high beams while the Congressman glared at her meanly. Finally, he said, “I didn’t come here to be ambushed by you, Ms. Stratton.”
“Then you shouldn’t have voted to reinstate the draft or agreed to come on to my show.” Liz stood and stepped toward the audience. “And now, gentlemen, I have some people I’d like you to meet.” She gestured to the wings and groups of women began walking across the stage.
“This is Soledad, whose husband returned from a 2 year rotation in the Middle East six months ago. He’s been drafted and is leaving in a week to go back.” Soledad stepped up and shook both men’s hands as she held a squirming infant on her hip. “Soledad works part-time to help support their five kids, but daycare is killing her budget. Her husband is an engineer, but the Army only pays him a tiny percentage of what he could get at home.”
Another young woman stepped forward. “This is Mindy, gentlemen. Her 18-year-old fiancĂ© Bill was killed in Mesopotamianstan a month ago. She’s pregnant with his child.”
An older woman stepped forward. “This is Ann. She had four sons, but now she’s down to a single boy who’s seventeen. The rest were killed in action. She’s terrified that her lone son will be next.”
“That’s enough,” snapped the Congressman. “We had hearings that lasted two months. We’ve heard all these stories and others that were worse. We still decided that the Draft is needed. Nothing you can show me will change my mind.”
“Oh, I’m not here to change your mind,” said Liz. “But perhaps you’re right. These ladies may have the saddest stories, but maybe not the most convincing ones. You may go sit, darlings.” Liz waved them to the front row seats. Then she turned to the opposite wing off stage.
Four men in suits walked on stage and sat in chairs opposite the couch the Congressman sat on. “Who are they?” the Lieutenant whispered to Congressman Miller who shook his head.
“Gentlemen, meet Adams, Tappan, DeFord and Malvadkar of the Winchester Research Institute. They study money in Washington.” Miller shifted a little in his seat. “Would you tell us what you’ve found, sirs?”
“Well,” said Malvadkar. “It’s quite fascinating, really. The amount of money the oil companies are making off of developing the reserves in Mesopotamianstan are quite astounding. There is more oil and natural gas in that part of the world than any other. The American presence in the area has kept OPEC countries from controlling the resource. It’s very lucrative.”
“That’s nice for the oil companies,” said Liz. “How does that affect Washington?”
“Oh, there are all kinds of donations to both major parties by oil companies.”
“Thank you,” she said, turning to another man. “DeFord?”
“My department researches contractors working on the ‘rebuilding’ of the infrastructure of the area. Again, very lucrative and big contributions to leaders in both parties who decide where the contracts go.”
“Wow. Anything else?”
“Well, many Washington leaders are major stockholders in such companies.”
“Now, wait a minute!” Congressman Miller, standing. “Are you accusing me of something? If you are, out with it!”
Liz’s eyes flashed so brightly that the sparkle could be seen on a 13-inch black-and-white set with rabbit ears in Alabama. “Spare me, Congressman Miller,” she hissed. The crowd cheered and Miller sat back down in surprise. “I could accuse you of taking bribes from the oil companies to vote in favor of this war and of supporting it for the last ten years. I could accuse you of voting in a way beneficial the companies you own stock in, companies that make huge amounts of money NOT building schools and roads in the Middle East. I could accuse you of taking ‘campaign money’ from Russian sources whose interests in the northern oases of Mesopotamianstan are suspect, as Dr. Adams here has studied. I could use information Dr. Tappan has collected and accuse you and all of Congress of lining your pockets with taxpayer money earmarked for armor and ammo for the troops already in that God-forsaking land, the troops who are the lovers and husbands and sons and fathers of ladies like those who face you in the front row here, and who face you in the rest of the studio audience, and who are peering at you from behind their television screens all across the country. I could accuse you, Congressman Miller, of all these things, but I don’t have to. These things are all true, and documentation proving them are on my website for my viewers to see. The address is on their screens right now. So spare me your self-righteousness, and get off of my stage. Now.”
Congressman Miller sputtered angrily, but then faced the audience, which was jeering loudly. He sat down and scowled at Liz until the hissing stopped.
“Listen here, Ms. Stratton,” he began. “I will not be ordered around by the likes of you. You and your media-dog cohorts have no idea how Washington works. You haven’t been there. True, it is difficult to extract oneself from the rat’s nest of loyalties. Besides that, many of the people in your audience are probably just as ‘heavily invested’ in those companies as I am because they are commonly part of mutual funds in 401Ks. Most of the things you accuse me of are true, but you forget that not everyone in Washington is the greasy, corrupt slimeball you make us out to be. Some of us actually try to make the broken system work to the benefit of our constituents. That includes protecting them with a strong military. Now, if you’ll excuse me...” Congressman Miller stood, stripping the microphone off of his tie and dropping it to the floor as he left the stage.
The audience taunted him again as he left. This was fortunate for Liz, who was speechless for the first time in ages. Zeke kept the camera on the audience and not on Liz’s stunned face. The Lieutenant sat frozen to his seat, looking so frightened that Zeke signaled a commercial break so he could get both of them off stage.
It was not young Stratton’s finest moment on television.
This day was definitely looking up. Liz sat in her green room, re-reading the last press release from WAP, or the Womyn’s Achievement Party, of which Calliope Talmadge was president. When Liz and Cal were friends at Mt. Holyoke, you wouldn’t have guessed that Cal was going to take up a cause. For the first two years of school, she claimed that she was majoring in Amherst men. Liz was the one who worked at the school paper and wrote angry letters to the Boston Globe about the treatment of women under the Taliban. It took one required Women’s Studies course to change Cal, although her reaction was very different than Liz’s.
After reading a speech by Susan B. Anthony, Cal stopped “chasing boys.” After reading a book by Gloria Steinem, Cal cut her waist-length strawberry blonde curtain to a bob. Liz wasn’t as drastic. She stopped fretting about what her boyfriend thought about her wardrobe. After all, he was a Philosophy student, always dressed in black, and didn’t know a thing about cut and drape.
That summer, Cal interned at WAP’s political office in D.C. while Liz worked at a newspaper copy-editing the ed-op pieces. The roomies reunited the next fall with very clear ideas of where their lives were going. Liz was going to win a Pulitzer by the time she was 25 and Cal was going to be the first woman President.
Cal tapped at Liz’s door and peeked in, all grins. “He-ey!” she squealed. “Lizzy!” Cal was the only person in the world who could get away with this nick-name.
“Cally!” Liz squealed in return and the two hugged in the doorway. “Come in, come in! How the hell are you?”
Cal, still sporting a short blonde bob, but dressed in a trim beige suit and shoes that showed off her sexy calves, perched on a make-up chair. “Oh, Liz. Big doings! Big doings this year! This is the year, I tell you.”
“What’s up?”
“WAP is going to have a candidate for President this year!”
“No way! You’re kidding! Cal, I’m so pleased for you!” Liz leapt up and hugged her friend. “You will be fabulous!”
Cal laughed. “No, no, you misunderstand! I’m not running. We have a much better candidate in mind.”
“Really?” Liz asked. “Who?”
Cal got a sly look in her eye.
“Okay, Cal. Spill it. Who’s your candidate?”
Cal drumrolled on the table, then leaned in to whisper into Liz’s ear:
It took a martini-ed lunch to convince her, but Cal knew which buttons to push. The “It’s your civic duty” line probably wouldn’t work, but Cal knew that Liz was angrier about the futile war than anyone. Once Cal played that card, Liz was in.
“So, what’s next?” Liz asked, as they sat in the green room.
“You and I and the WAP team will discuss policy, and you’ll have to study the issues like you’re taking the Bar exam. Can you do that?”
Liz grinned. “Are you actually asking if I can pull all-nighters with my best friend in the whole world? As long as there are Oreos, I can learn anything!”
Cal laughed at the memories of final’s week binges. “This is the REAL reason I picked you, Liz,” she said. “We don’t hang out enough.”
“Jesus, Cal,” Liz said. “Just invite me out to a movie next time!” They laughed and gripped hands across the table.
After the last giggle, Liz looked her friend in the eye and said, “So, are we going to win?”
“Oh, probably not,” Cal said casually. “But we’ll make as much noise as we can as we go down.”
“But, Cal,” Liz said a little urgently. “What if we DO win?”
Cal’ eyes lit up. “Then we’ll change the world, my girl. We’ll change everything!”
There was a tap at the door and Liz’s hairdresser came into her dressing room shyly. “Ms. Stratton? You need to be on stage in two minutes.”
“Yes, yes. I’ll be there,” Liz said, but the girl continued to stand there awkwardly. Then Liz remembered. “Oh, right. Cal, this is...” Damn it. What was that girl’s name? “This is my new hairdresser, Amber! Right?” She nodded. “Right. She heard your name and just went to jelly in admiration, didn’t you?”
Amber blushed, but stepped forward and shook Cal’s hand. “I am so honored to meet you, ma’am.”
Cal smiled kindly. “I like your hair.”
Amber’s blush receded and she smiled in pride. “I modeled it after yours,” she admitted. “I’m the president of my WAP chapter in Anaheim,” she said. “I would love to talk to you about a couple ideas we’ve had about the upcoming Presidential election.”
“That would be wonderful,” Cal said graciously. She pulled a card out of her purse. “Give me a call this week and we’ll talk.”
Amber could hardly contain her glee. “Thank you thank you thank you!” she said as she backed out of the room, clutching the business card to her chest like it might try to escape. Cal grinned at Liz.
“You get this more than me,” she said. “Is fame always like that?”
“Amber is a sweetheart, but if she does your hair, bring a nail to bite on,” Liz said as she glanced at her watch. “We need to get on stage.”
The theme music of the show filled the studio and the audience began to clap and cheer. Liz made eye contact with Zeke who gave her five, four, three, two...
“And now, here’s the host of Spare Me!, Liz Stratton!” cried the taped announcer as Liz took the stage, waving to random people as they stood and cheered for her.
“Hello! Hello, everyone! Welcome to Spare Me!, the show where...” Liz waited a beat for the audience to hear their cue.
“...we don’t take any baloney!” the crowd cried happily.
“We’ve got a great show for you today. My dear friend Calliope Talmadge, the President of the Womyn’s Achievement Party, is here with a big announcement!” There were genuine applause, not as exuberant as they might have been for the star with the clumsy child, but that didn’t bother Liz.
Liz looked for Calliope in the wings. Cal winked at her and smiled, signaling that she was ready for the show. “Here she is, my dear friend and President of WAP, Calliope Talmadge!”
Cal strode onto stage waving and smiling as if she were running for President. The ladies in the audience cheered and the men smiled, because, despite her position in life as the short, unmarried leader of a women’s organization, Cal was as poised and beautiful as a movie star.
Cal and Liz sat on the comfortable upholstered chairs in the center of the soundstage, a contrast in femininity. Compact and bubbly, Cal was not the picture of a feminist leader, and rangy, athletic Liz did not fit the image of a woman who made her living talking.
“So, Calliope Talmadge, President of WAP. What are you here to announce today?” Liz asked her friend.
“Liz, I am here to announce that WAP will have a candidate in this year’s race for the President of the United States!” The crowd clapped and cheered as Cal smiled. “It gets better,” she said when the audience quieted. “I’m here to announce our candidate today on this show!” The crowd whooped in excitement.
“That’s marvelous!” said Liz.
“It is marvelous, Liz. And the best part, everyone, is that our candidate will be our own Elizabeth Ann Stratton!”
The audience erupted out of their seats, cheering and applauding. Some of the younger women were actually screaming and jumping up and down, demonstrating how poorly their bras fit. Liz stood and waved to the crowd, smiling.
Then Liz caught Zeke’s eye. She and Cal hadn’t told him what they were planning, so he stood next to the camera with his headset wrapped around his neck and his jaw hanging open like a mailbox lid. She gave him a little wave and he blinked slowly at her. He mouthed the word “Really?” at her, and she nodded. He cued a commercial and sat down on the floor heavily.
This is the first chapter of Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store.
Can’t wait to see what happens? Download the entire book at Smashwords.com or Amazon.com!
About the Author
Maren Bradley Anderson is a writer, teacher, podcaster, blogger, and alpaca rancher who lives in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. She has written short stories and plays for years, and has recently taken to writing screenplays and novels. She teaches live and online classes on literature and writing at Western Oregon University. She has Master’s Degrees in both Literature and Teaching Writing from Humboldt State University and a B.A. in English and Studio Art from Mount Holyoke College. Maren hosts a podcast about alpacas (Paca Talk) with her husband, and blogs about alpacas and writing. Her alpacas win ribbons for conformation and fleece, plus she thinks they are darned cute.

Connect with me online!

Published by Maren Bradley Anderson
Copyright 2011 Maren Bradley Anderson
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Monday, August 22, 2011

"Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store" to be published serially!

You may have noticed that I have entered the world of self-publishing during the past couple weeks. I have several reasons why I have chosen to do so, some of which are:
  • I have close to 20 years’ worth of stories sitting in drawers not earning me money
  • I have several stories which have been sent to magazine publishers from whom I have never heard back (so, technically I’m not supposed to submit them elsewhere)
  • I have a short novel that I really believe is funny and a good read, which is not getting much attention from traditional publishers
  • I’m a nerd who likes technology.

In addition, I read blogs and listen to podcasts like these that convinced me:

Now, I don’t really want to enter into to the debate of whether or not self-publishing, electronic or paper, is something everyone should do, but for me it came down to this: I have writing that could be making me money, but is not because no one has access to it.

Enter Smashwords.com and Amazon.com.

The two stories I posted online first were experiments. They are two of the best stories I have, and I intend on continuing to publish my backlog until I am out of stories that do not embarrass me.

However, I am also moving on to bigger projects. First, is my novel Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store. It’s the story of a talk show host who runs for President but then accidentally calls a sex-strike to end a war. It’s an adaptation of Lysistrata, an ancient Greek play that introduced the world to the sex-strike. It’s a fun read.

I am going to serially publish this novel on this blog, Smashwords.com, and Amazon.com one chapter at a time. Every Saturday beginning August 27, 2011, I will post a chapter that will be free for one week (except for chapter one…that will always be free) on Smashwords.com and Amazon.com. The blog posts will also always be free.

The entire e-book is available for purchase from Smashwords.com, Amazon.com for $2.99, and will be available on Create Space soon for those who want a printed page to read.

I will announce on my Facebook page, Google+, and on Twitter when each chapter is posted. Please help me out by “Sharing” these announcements or otherwise forwarding them to your circles of friends. I’m relying mostly on word of mouth to get people to read my work.

I hope you all enjoy Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store.


Friday, August 12, 2011

"Second-Best Rod and Reel" available


Here is another short story from Maren Bradley Anderson.

Here's a blurb:

What is the best thing about catching a fat rainbow trout on a silvery fly? Is it the joy of catching a fish? Or is it a small slice of revenge? A very short story.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Read my story for FREE

Read my short story "Peacocks" at Smashwords for Free!
Use the following coupon code at checkout.

Coupon Code: VJ56N
Expires: September 4, 2011



Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Peacocks: a short story available at Smashwords.com

I'm trying something new: Smashwords.com. Here is my first story published through this service. Tell me what you think!


Click here to get this book at Smashwords.com

In this short story, Sherri wants a new start, so moves from California to rural Oregon where she takes a new job as a bartender and befriends a wild female peacock. Unfortunately, her former husband manages to track her down just as she is beginning to feel at home. Is she strong enough to send him away and face the loneliness of starting over in a new place?